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From keeping chickens to comprehensive plan, Planning Commission provides objective voice

March 14, 2018 – News

How land is developed and where certain types of activities can occur can be divisive. Local governments handle this fundamental tension by establishing a Planning Commission. The central function of the City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission is to provide an objective and independent voice on matters related to Juneau’s short and long term development, from the overarching Comprehensive Plan to more specific matters like keeping chickens. Planning Commissioners are expected to exercise fair, honest and independent judgment as decision-makers and advisors. The foundation of their decisions and advice is always the consideration of the “public health, safety, and welfare,” according to CBJ code. In short, they balance the needs of individuals with the needs of the community at large. No small task.

The Planning Commission consists of nine volunteer citizens who have a background or interest in community development and land use issues. Commissioners are appointed by the Juneau Assembly for three-year, staggered terms. The Assembly has delegated the Commission the authority to make land use decisions on issues ranging from marijuana retail stores to childcare centers to asphalt plans. The Commission also advises the Assembly on issues and activities related to planning and community development, like neighborhood area plans and the housing action plan.

Regular Planning Commission meetings are on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. in City Hall Chambers. At these meetings, the Commission takes public testimony and then makes decisions on land use cases. Topics can sometimes be controversial, garner a lot of public interest and result in meetings that last for hours. Through all of that, the Commission is expected to listen, consider and ultimately make a legally sound decision. In addition to the two regular meetings, the Commission holds committee meetings to work on amendments to the Land Use Code, reviews proposed subdivisions and updates plans. Commissioners also serve as liaisons to Assembly committees, as well as the Juneau Commission on Sustainability and Wetlands Review Board.

The Commission is also responsible for updating the Comprehensive Plan, which is the guiding document that describes how the community desires to develop physically, economically and socially. In addition, the Commission works with staff to make recommendations to the Assembly for improving the Land Use Code, which establishes the legal basis for development in the community.

Current Planning Commission members are Chair Ben Haight, Vice-Chair Paul Voelckers, Clerk Michael Levine, Deputy Clerk Nathaniel Dye, Andrew Campbell, Dan Miller, Daniel Hickok, Carl Greene and Percy Frisby. You can contact the Commissioners at PC_Comments@juneau.org or get more information at juneau.org/plancom.